Headlines: September 14th, 2005

Young African-Caribbean people who have been excluded from school get vital support in continuing their education from voluntary projects, according to research published today. It finds, though, that their dependence on poorly-funded local groups highlights a continuing lack of help from statutory education services.The study by researchers at Nottingham Trent University and the University of Nottingham is based on in-depth interviews with 33 young people in London and Nottingham aged from 15 to 19. For many of them, it says, the experience had acted as a ‘critical moment’, making them re-assess their lives and giving them new determination to get qualifications for work. All but three of those in the study were in education or employment when they were interviewed.

The young people expressed a strong sense of injustice about their exclusions and believed black pupils were punished more severely for behaviour problems than were their white contemporaries. Most of those interviewed said they had found themselves in ‘educational limbo’ without any immediate alternative to school. Some blamed being left with nothing to do for drifting into crime.

Parents and carers were also interviewed for the study, which is published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. It reveals the stress that exclusion put on families. The majority of parents continued to provide emotional support but in some cases the strain had led to a breakdown in family relationships.

The researchers found that in addition to help from their relatives and friends the young people found support from their communities, sympathetic teachers, social workers, agency workers, mentors, religious groups and alternative education projects. They say that although community-based voluntary groups were not established to provide a support service for excluded pupils they are playing an important role in advising the pupils and their families.

These local organisations, which included education, crime prevention and youth work projects, felt they were filling a vacuum created by the lack of statutory provision. All the groups spoken to in the research emphasised the role of the community in enabling excluded young people to find their way back into education and helping them deal with the racism that they felt existed.